One of the major themes of the Obama campaign was that there are legions of qualified people, not of and by Washington DC, who can bring to bear their expertise, energy, fresh ideas, and a determination to enact good policy or the country and the Administration.
More than 350,000 people applied to serve in the Obama Administration on the Change.Gov website. To my knowledge, not a single person who was not otherwise well-known has yet been found suitable for a major position in the Administration.
Tom Daschle was an excellent choice for HHS Secretary because he knew healthcare policy and, as former Senate Majority Leader, had an intimate knowledge of the legislative process.
Governor Kathleen Sebelius will also be a good choice if she is indeed the selection.
But, what about considering someone not from politics? Would that not be a breakthrough itself? What about someone who responded to the Obama message at the grassroots, and applied online through "change.gov" whose only mission was to help the President bring the change we need to the country?
There are skill sets other than politics for HHS Secretary. Rahm Emanuel and the Vice President arguably know legislative process as well as Tom Daschle. If they are, as they will be, enlisted to guide a health reform measure through the Congress, an HHS Secretary whose real life experience is in healthcare has the knowledge and gravitas to speak with authority about how policy will actually work at the doctor-patient level. Challenge such a person with this or that study--most of them cherry-picked by the proponents of a particular approach--and such a person can literally "pull rank" on them.
Perhaps someone who was National Physician of the Year for a program he started called "House Calls"? Someone who has worked in the public healthcare system and for-profit private healthcare system, and knows the benefits and flaws of each?
That person is Alan P. Abrams, M.D., M.P.H., a board-certified internist and geriatrician, trained at NYU and Harvard, and currently Chief of the Geriatric Fellowship Training at Beth Israel-Deaconess Hospital (Boston, MA), and, yes, my brother, which is why I know about his accomplishments, but not why I suggest him for HHS Secretary. Here are the reasons:
1. He established a program called "House Calls" to provide medical care for senior citizens in their homes.
2. First demonstration of improved outcomes for complex, homebound senior citizens based upon reduced ER visits, reduced hospital admissions, reduced hospital stays;
3. He was the National Physician of the Year 1992 National Association of Home Care;
4. He was 1992 Massachusetts Physician of the Year Association of Home Care
5. Specifically cited for his House Calls Program, his hospital was the 1993 Foster Magaw Award as the Hospital of the Year.
6. Original Medical Director of Award Winning Evercare Program for People who live in Nursing Homes winning the Impact Award from the American Geriatric Society
7. He was Medical Director of 2 CMS demonstration programs that have saved money AND improved outcomes for Seniors.
8. 2004 Kenneth B Schwartz Compassionate Caregiver Award Finalist
9. Director of the Veterans Administration Ambulatory Geriatric Evaluation Unit, Boston VA Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center.
10. Board of Directors, American Association of Home Care Physicians.
11. Medical Director of Evercare Senior Care Options...demonstration project first in the nation to combine medicaid and medicare funding streams to care for low income seniors.
12. Assistant Professor of Medicine Harvard Medical School; Director, Harvard Geriatric Fellowship Program
13. Medical Director, Center of Excellence for Senior Health, Cambridge Health Alliance.
14. President of the non-profit,National Institute of Community Care, 3 year TV show for Seniors in 5 markets.... "Time for Living"
15. Board of Directors, HEARTH, a non-profit committed to housing the homeless elderly
16. Governor's Quality Committee: Infection Control Outside the Hospital
17. Program Committee, American Medical Director's Association
That is, someone with a deep understanding of how "the healthcare delivery system has to change, without impairing quality of care, to improve outcomes for patients while lowering costs"
Not a bad mission statement for the new Secretary of HHS... Alan Abrams has done it.
Alan Abrams is very well known and respected in his field, but unknown to the political insiders in DC. So, choosing him for HHS Secretary would be like John Kerry choosing as his convention keynote speaker, uh, uh...who was that again?